Panama gives ground on bananas

Banana exporter Panama has indicated in press reports that it might accept a planned EU banana import tariff if it were both set a lower level and delayed by several years.

"We are willing to explore that avenue," chief agricultural negotiator Estif Aparicio was reported by Reuters.

The EU proposed an import tariff of e187 a tonne for most-favoured nation (MFN) - mainly Latin American - bananas as part of a tariff-only regime which a group of nine Latin American nations have so far rejected.

But there is room for still more negotiation, it appears. "We could accept the existence of a transitional period prior to getting to tariff only," Aparicio said.

The EU has to scrap its complex system of quotas and import duties for a tariff-only system set to be implemented from January 1, 2006. The problem now is how high to set the duty.